Arriving in Nice at 10am, we had a full day ahead of us. I actually slept quite well on the train; our room onboard was small and held 6 beds (3 on each side of the room, stacked like sardines) but I managed to ignore the fact that there were four random people sleeping around me. I was super excited to actually spend a whole day in France and anxious to practice my speaking skills. Once we got off the train, it was a mutual decision to sit down and have some food before walking to the hostel. We had reserved the hostel online while we were in Switzerland, so luckily we were at peace, knowing that we had beds to sleep in for the night! We exited the train station, stopped at an ATM, and then found a little café on the street to have sandwiches. I ordered completely in French and was proud of myself! It was so nice to hear French all around us. Although I definitely didn’t understand everything, it was much easier than being in Germany where I wouldn’t know the difference between someone calling me an idiot or asking me if I needed help finding something. We ate, caught our breath, and then figured out our way to the hostel – only about a 10 minute walk from the station. We stopped at a pharmacy on the way; my razor had broken earlier in the week and I was not ready to embrace the whole grow-out-all-your-body-hair-European-thing. (Just kidding, of course they shave. But you know what I mean.) Plus it was hot and I was excited to wear dresses and shorts. Anyway.
We checked in at our hostel, but couldn’t go to our rooms until 3pm. I politely asked the receptionist if there were showers available at the time (in French!), and she told me that usually there aren’t, but she’d let us go ahead and shower if we would keep it as clean as we found it. Extremely thankful, we took turns showering and repacking our things before heading out into the city. Jed suggested that we stop and get gelato on the way – the stands were everywhere! He had traveled through Italy in 2007, and told me that we were close enough to Italy that the gelato here would be just as good. He was right. It was absolutely fantastic, and with the warmer weather, it was especially refreshing. We started walking towards Old Nice, an older (duh) part of the city where the streets were narrow and crowded, busy and bustling. We attempted to take the walking tour in the Rick Steves guidebook, but couldn’t really find the starting point. So instead, we went inside a cathedral near the town square, cooled off with a drink near a fountain, and then just started wandering. I think our “walking tour” was probably just as awesome. While we were wandering, we bought some postcards. One of the postcards that Jed bought had a picture of a big waterfall on it – “We have to find this place,” he told me. We did.
As we were wandering, somehow we ended up climbing hundreds of steps up to a fantastic panoramic view of the city. I love how we randomly find things like that! The panoramic viewing area led to a large park, full of more stairs and pretty views. Eventually we found the waterfall, and the cool breeze and picturesque area was worth the trek. There was a couple at the waterfall who was newly married, taking wedding pictures. You know a place is gorgeous when someone takes their wedding pictures there! Once we fully appreciated everything in the park, we started zig-zagging our way down the many steps back towards the beach. There was a Russian Cathedral that Jed read about, so we found it on the map and realized that if we just walked along the beach for a while, we’d come across the street that it was on. So that’s exactly what we did! As we were walking along, we were carrying a normal conversation until Jed interjected with an “Oh hey, she’s topless.” There were a few women on the beach that were indeed, topless, and it was quite strange to see as there were families and children everywhere. I guess that’s Nice for you! We eventually made it to the cathedral, and went inside. It was built by 500 Russian families back in the day, when there wasn’t a place for them to practice their faith in Nice. It still stands this day, and it is extremely gorgeous and intricate. Although much smaller on the inside than I expected to be, it was packed full of symbolism and artwork. There was a handy paper information sheet to read as you walked around that explained the background behind everything that you were seeing. Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed.
Since it was about 4pm, we figured it’d be a good idea to head back to the hostel to rest for a bit. At my request, we stopped at H&M on the way. I wanted to get a sundress to wear for the next 2 days in Barcelona but I wasn’t able to find anything. We continued onto the hostel, took a quick nap, and then headed out for dinner around 8pm. Jed suggested going back to the Oceanside for dinner, as it’d be beautiful and probably delicious. We found a place in a good location with reasonable prices and enjoyed a nice pasta dinner. We even managed to carry most of the conversation with our waitress in French, until we were trying to get the bill and I think she got frustrated with us. Oh well! We wandered back towards Old Nice after dinner to see what it was like at nighttime – it was crazy! There were people everywhere, bars everywhere, and dogs everywhere. I think Europeans are big on bringing their dogs everywhere, and I love it. We walked around for quite a while before stopping at a local hookah bar to sit and relax. It wasn’t as crazy of a night as we expected, but it was definitely fun nonetheless. Nice is a lovely city by day and night, and I’m glad that we got to see both before we had to leave. If I lived there, I would be super tan, super posh, and super broke. We saw it on a budget, though, and still had an awesome time. Plus it was nice to get a little taste of France, where I’ll be living for the next four months. My French skills weren’t as bad as I thought they were, so that gave me a little bit of confidence. I can’t wait to be back in this country!
pictures: (1) me at the first square we saw in the old part of town (2) walking the streets of Nice (3) pretty cathedral (4) inside the cathedral (5) walking up many stairs, slowly starting to see the panoramic views (6) me at the top of the stairs (7) we found the waterfall! (8) the beautiful beach in Nice (9) me at the beach (10) the Russian Cathedral (11) do no enter? or no mustaches allowed? (12) one of the main square in Nice, with odd lights shaped like crouching men